A San Francisco area rapper and NYU student is making huge waves in the rap scene.
Justin Walton, known professionally as Jwalt, was interested in poetry when he was around 8 or 9 years old and started doing performance poetry. When he reached middle school, a friend of his told him that he should start to explore the world of hip hop.
“I had a friend who was a hip hop artist at the time. He said if you’re doing poetry you should get into hip hop, it’s basically the same thing,” said Jwalt, now 19. “It’s rhythm and poetry. I started getting into hip hop from there. I have been doing it ever since.”
Jwalt built an impressive career for himself in the Bay Area, performing live and opening for Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and Too Short in California in 2019. The young rapper moved out to New York City to attend NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and further immerse himself in the music industry.
“New York is the birthplace of hip hop. I always knew that I wanted to be out there in some way eventually, and NYU just had the program I was looking for,” said Jwalt. “I knew I wanted to focus on music and continue on with music for the rest of my life. I thought, let me go out to New York and really take in this culture, take in hip hop where it started and still be able to continue to get an education.”
Prior to joining the student body of NYU, Jwalt was performing live regularly before COVID shut down live shows. In the spring of 2020, Jwalt released his debut album “Yours Truly,” which has since taken off.
According to Jwalt, the album gives listeners an idea of who he is on many different levels, not just who he is as a rapper and performer.
“I wanted it to be an album where people could hear different sides of me, not just who Jwalt is but who Justin is. I wanted to talk about different aspects of my life, like relationships, mental health, to where I see myself in hip hop and where I want to go,” said Jwalt. “I just wanted to tap into different aspects of myself and incorporate poetry because that’s what got me into music as well. For ‘Yours Truly,’ I want to give people an insight into who I am, which is why I titled it ‘Yours Truly’ — it’s me, it’s truly me, it’s me at its rawest form.”
“Yours Truly” was released alongside a mini-documentary that was initially meant to just Jwalt’s concert performance with the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and Too Short at the Oakland Arena (formerly known as the Oracle Arena), but ultimately turned into a bigger story.
“It’s always been a dream for me to perform at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, where the warriors used to play— it’s the biggest arena in Oakland, so I thought once I perform here, I’ll be going in my own direction,” said Jwalt. “I wanted to capture that moment because it was a huge moment for me. Once we captured that moment, me and the director of the doc Ryan Corr thought, we could do something bigger than that. Let’s interview my little brother, some family, incorporate other people who were involved with me and my life.”
Jwalt says that the album and documentary have been received really well, earning him praise from several publications.
“It’s been great, it’s just a blessing that people have been able to take in my work. As an artist, that’s all I want,” said Jwalt.
This spring, Jwalt dropped a music video for his latest single “The Taking.” Jwalt started working on the song with a classmate of his at NYU during the 2020 fall semester.
“We just started playing beats. He played two beats and after the second beat was ‘The Taking’ beat. I thought, this is the one we need,” said Jwalt. “I wrote the chorus really quick and started working on the verse. I stopped working on that song and went to another session and worked on something else.”
When Jwalt went home for winter break, he felt the need to create. He found the working file for “The Taking” and got to work in his home studio.
After the song was finished and released online, “The Taking” started to soar and gain tons of attention.
“It’s my biggest song yet, it has 100,000 on everything. Got picked up by ESPN, Apple Music, and ended up on the BARS playlist, which is a new Bay Area playlist,” said Jwalt. “It’s definitely been doing its thing which is dope because I just made it in my house.”
With the song blowing up, the next step was to make the music video. Jwalt teamed up with some of his fellow NYU students to produce and film the video in New York City.
“I made my own team from my school. We sat down and came up with a vision of what I wanted it to look like,” said Jwalt. “From there, I met with some directors and I found the director I wanted and we started working on it. After two weeks of planning, we shot it in 4 days and it turned out to be what it is now.”
Jwalt says that the song and video have been leading him to receive an outpouring of support from his fans, many of whom have been reaching out online to express their love for the song.
“I’ve been getting a lot of DMs, calls, and messages how much [fans] love it. I was reading comments on YouTube that they listen to it every morning, like that it’s their pump-up song and how this song has meant the world to everyone,” said Jwalt. “Little stuff like that is what kept me going and always means the world to me.
As for what’s next for Jwalt, new music is certainly on the horizon.
“I recently just partnered with Create Music Group, I’m excited to fully announce that and make music with them,” said Jwalt. “So just more music coming out, stay tuned for that.”